The diary of two novice gardeners and allotmenteers

Chris and Steve's Weblog – City Chickens

Lupin Russell Noble Maiden White

I bought seeds of Lupin Noble Maiden White from Seekay and after an overnight soak they were sown into module trays of damp compost and covered in a polythene bag, I sowed two lots about a week apart and germination has been very good, as with most of the seed from this supplier. It looks like I may not see any flowers this year which is sad. These seedlings have been potted on twice now 25th May, and are producing some good roots.

This is said to be a robust Lupin that produces densely packed spikes of creamy white flowers in mid summer and often again in early autumn. Lupins are stalwarts of the cottage garden and are perfect for the border. Easy to grow and undemanding they put on quite a show with the minimum of fuss as long as they have enough moisture when actively growing.

A Hardy perennial , Noble Maiden bears pinnacles of White flowers. Sow the seeds from April – July after having soaked them over night. Sow in damp compost and cover in a polythene bag. Germination can take up to 21 days. When large enough to handle pot on into 3″ pots prior to planting out after all risk of frost has passed. According to the National Gardening Institute, all parts of a Russell Lupin plant are toxic. Overwintered plants will flower in the summer but those sown in March may not flower until the next year.  Young plants need to be potted on frequently whenever their large roots stick out of the pot. Wait until they are at least 12″ tall  before putting them out you get a good strong plant. Originally Lupins, Lupinus polyphyllus, were introduced into Britain from North America in 1826. This cottage garden perennial had the plain blue flowered spikes with occasional whiter flowers. In 1937 the RHS awarded its highest honour to a  jobbing gardener George Russell for developing a strain of Lupins that caused a sensation.  George Russell developed his Lupins by selection of seedlings achieving a central spike covered with flowers. Bred for a long flowering period with unbeatable garden performance. He produced one of the most popular plants in history, the ever popular Russell Hybrids.

The Russell Hybrids, Band of Nobles series, have exceptionally bright and strong colours.  Noble Maiden, occasionally called Fraülein, feature soft ivory white buds that open to pure clean white. Stunning in the border or in a vase. Growing to around 3-4ft the plant forms a well established leafy foundation with several flowering stems rising out of a single base. Tall spires of tightly packed flowers rise above beautiful green clumps of palmate foliage. The flowers open from the bottom up making for a longer blooming period.  Lupins are very hardy plants, surviving extreme temperatures withstanding frost and are extremely attractive to bees and other pollinating insects.   Lupinus x Russellii Noble Maiden has been awarded the RHS Award of Garden Merit.

Creeping Phlox Subulata

The plug plants of creeping phlox ordered from T&M have been potted on into small pots of moist compost and put outside. The five varieties include, Snowflake, Candy Stripes, Emerald Cushion Blue, Red Wings and Drummonds Pink. This a completely new plant to me but caught my eye as ideal for around the pond if it gets done this year. At least they can hopefully flourish in pots for the time being.

Creeping Phlox Subulata is a stunning, wintergreen perennial and ground cover plant, with lovely star-shaped flowers. Flowering from April to June, creeping phlox grows out to an attractive and eye catching, spring flowering green carpet. Creeping phlox is much loved by gardeners all over the world for its rich flower display and grows to approximately 15 cm tall. It is an ideal rock garden or woodland plant and is a welcome addition to any flower border. This lovely plant is easy to grow and care for.

Forget me Not – Myosotis Blue Ball

Although I do have forget-me-not in the garden already I bought a packet of Myosotis Blue Ball seeds from Seekay, 400 seeds for 99p, and have dotted a few seeds here and there around the garden. They may throw up something a little different. I love these delicate flowers with their beautiful blue colour. The fact that they self seed is also a winner in my book. Blue Ball produces dwarf plants with rich blue flowers between April and June. Sow in May on the surface of moist seed compost. Do not cover as the seed needs light and warmth to germinate. Leave about 9″ between plants when planting out.

Myosotis is a genus of flowering plants in the family Boraginaceae. In the northern hemisphere they are commonly called forget-me-nots or scorpion grasses. The common name “forget-me-not” derived from the German Vergiss mein nicht and first used in English in 1398 AD via King Henry IV. Similar names and variations are found in many languages. Myosotis alpestris is the state flower of Alaska.

Pak Choi 2017

I have a few seeds of Pak Choi left. They are quite a few years old now so I am just sowing them all into a flat tray of moist compost. If they germinate successfully I shall pot them on into an oblong planter. Sow seed in moist compost in small pots or cells. They can be sown direct but young seedlings are susceptible to slug attack. Thin out young seedlings and keep them well watered. Pak Choi should be ready to harvest in 30 days from sowing as baby leaf or between 45-75 days as semi-mature to full-size heads. When seedlings are 5cm tall plant them outside firming in well. Keep them well watered to prevent bolting. Cover the crop with horticultural fleece to provide a barrier to airborne pests, such as flea beetles. No sign of these seedlings at all so the seed must have been too old. I shall try again next year though with fresh seeds. These leafy green vegetables are similar to Spring Greens. The paddle shaped dark green crispy leaves have a thick creamy stalk and a mild flavour. The leaves and the stalks can be eaten as an accompaniment to meat or fish or used in stir fry. It is best steamed or stir fried with fresh ginger and a little soy sauce. Keeps in the fridge for up to 5 days.

Wallflower Ivory White – Erysimum cheiri English Wallflower

Although I have very many Wallflowers in my garden I couldn’t resist buying seeds of this one from Seekay. There are supposed to be 1000 seeds in the packet and I never pay more than a pound for anything from them so they were a good buy. It is a beautiful creamy white wallflower that will grow to about 18″ high and flower from April to June. Wallflowers are biennial and so grow in the first year and flower in the next year so I will have to be patient. What spring garden would be complete without a bed of delightful, sweet-scented Wallflowers, harbingers of warmer weather to come. Very easy to grow and very rewarding; indeed they respond beautifully to the sow and forget technique. Bare patches sown with the absolute minimum of fuss in mid-August started flowering the following April and continued to supply the household with an abundance of cut flowers for many weeks thereafter. Although technically a short-lived perennial, these perform much better as a hardy biennial. So say the people from Chiltern Seeds and who am I to argue.  Sow the seeds thinly from April in open ground that has been well dug. Once large enough to handle thin out. The thinnings can be replanted or potted up for later use.  Keep the soil moist prior to germination. I have just sprinkled a few seeds into the white border. Can’t wait.

Iberis umbellata Dwarf Fairy mix – Candytuft

Iberis Dwarf Fairy Mix is an easy to grow variety that grows to a height of about 10″ and has large fragrant flower heads suitable for cut flowers. Flowers appear from March – Sept. Sow seeds indoors from mid March – April. Cover the seeds lightly. Germination will take between 14 – 30 days. Plant young seedlings out when the weather warms up a bit. Candytuft will not require very much care. I have had these pretty flowers before but have always bought them as young plants. This is the first attempt at growing from seed.

Night Scented Stock – Matthiola longipetala

I love these wild looking flowers and they bring back good memories for me because my Mom always used to sprinkle a packet of Night Scented Stock along the strip of garden under my bedroom window in the prefab when I was growing up. The prefabs had really large windows with two side opening ones and of course being a prefab the window was very close to the ground. No upstairs for us. When they were in flower the scent rising up when you opened the window was amazing and I can still recall it now. I can’t wait to go into the garden on a warm summer night and breathe in that perfume and remember, 30th March, a little early, I know, but I have sprinkled a bit of this seed here and there in sheltered spots around the garden.

Sow directly where they are to flower. Position plants around seating areas and along paths in the garden so their scent can be enjoyed in the evenings.  A sunny situation should be chosen making sure that drainage is good. Wait until the weather warms a little before sowing. Sow thinly, Water the soil regularly, especially in dry periods. Light spring frosts will not harm the plants.

Swiss Chard

We went to the allotment today and did a bit more tidying up. I was pleased to see three good roots of Swiss Chard just waiting to be picked for dinner. We also brought home a couple of leeks just to check on the quality really as they had been growing over the winter. They were brilliant and are now cut up and in the freezer and we are planning to harvest the rest of the crop and clear the bed for new planting. I came home a bit more optimistic about keeping the allotment plot. I had a load of wood chip dropped and Rob has tidied a few beds and covered them with manure and woodchip giving the whole place a visual lift. We have also  cleared the site of bits of plastic and empty bags that had been blown about after storm Doris. Back at home we put a bag of manure on the side garden plus two bags of wood chip. It is almost built up to the right level now another five bags should do it. Laura came home with a wooden raised bed knocked together by a friend of Bryans at his allotment site. We have painted it with green preservative and put it ready to be filled with soil and planted up.

Germinating Parsnip Seed – Pastinaca sativa


I found this method of germinating parsnip seed online on the Gardeners World site and decided to have a go. Not with all my seed but just twenty as a test. I bought the seed from Seekay in a bag of 250 seeds. They are a variety called Guernsey. Complete disaster. No sign of seeds or seedlings.

Mixing the parsnip seed in the bag of seed compost

Part-fill a plastic bag with moist seed compost and empty your seed packet onto the surface. There is no point in successional sowing as you don’t need to harvest them all in one go. What’s more, parsnip seed stays viable for only one year, so saving seed could lead to wasting it. Mix the seed and compost together so the seed is evenly distributed in the bag. Tie the top of the bag together and place in a dark, warm spot such as your airing cupboard. Leave for around four days. After around four days, remove the bag from the airing cupboard and check on your seeds. They should have germinated, and small seedlings will be poking out of the compost.Make a shallow trench in well-prepared soil with stones removed. Remove the seedlings from the bag and place them 10cm apart in the trench. Cover with a thin layer of soil and water with a watering can with a fine rose attached. The seedlings should continue to grow in their new growing positions.

Parsnips are ancient vegetables that have been cultivated in Europe for over 500 years with the French recording named varieties as far back as 1393.  Guernsey dates back to pre 1826 and, even though the name suggests otherwise originated in France. It has been cultivated in Guernsey for generations where it is considered by farmers to be the most nutritious root known, superior even to the carrot and the potato. 
The roots of this heritage variety are shorter than many of today’s long hybrids, they are often called Guernsey Half Long because of this. The stumpy roots have broad shoulders and attractive smooth white skin and even without the vigour of an F1 hybrid the flavour doubly compensates. They are easy to grow once germinated they need little maintenance and can be left in the soil until ready to use. Plant in early spring, and harvest from autumn to the following spring. The parsnip tops are large and need a good 30cm room in each direction. The more room you give them the larger they will grow. Guernsey is a firm favourite with many. it is considered to be one of the very best roasting varieties, this reliable, sweet root vegetable is making a come back, with crop numbers  increasing all over the country. Info Seedaholic.com.

Well that’s twenty of my new Parsnip seeds completely wasted as there is no sign of anything in the bag. I am so glad I didn’t put them all in. Attempt two was the damp kitchen towel in a plastic box method. Two weeks on and no sign of chitting. Looks like no parsnips this year. Either my methods are rubbish or the seeds are. Either way it is getting too late to sow now.

Clematis Miss Bateman Group 2

I bought this Clematis yesterday from Lidl for £3.99. It looks very good with lots of new growth and large root. I have bought Clematis from Lidl before, the Hagley Hybrid and it has been flowering for years so I am looking forward to adding it to the garden. I bought it to replace Miss Christine which I loved but which died on me after once being replaced by Crocus.com the replacement died also. That one was £17.99. I would like to place it in the same spot but think that may be too risky so I am opening up a new border behind the trellis and I shall place it there.

White early summer flowers initially striped green with contrasting chocolate centres. This compact  large flowered clematis is excellent for growing in a large container or through a shrub or tree. Coping well in full sun or partial shade, it produces a second flush of satiny flowers from August to September.